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If おかげで / "okagede" is an expression that means

thanks to ...;  owing to ...;  because of ...;

and the correct (?) kanji that this expression derived from is

陰 as in お陰で

which by itself means

shade;  yin;  negative;  sex organs;  secret;  shadow

what is the relation between the meaning of the kanji and the expression?

(apparently お蔭で · 御蔭で · 御陰で are also kanji precedents)

Possible clues:

(perhaps 陰 could mean "back" or "behind" in the past?)

(and 陰 is the Yin in YinYang?)

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2  
gogen-allguide.com/o/okagesama.html –  Dono Feb 12 '13 at 6:09
    
@Dono, thanks. Unfortunately I couldn't read all the kanji there and that page would not let me copy and paste. Being technically unsavvy I use safari, but I haven't found a kanji reader for that browser. If anyone knows a good kanji reader for safari, pls tell me. –  yadokari Feb 12 '13 at 6:26
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Quote: おかげさまは、他人から受ける利益や恩恵を意味する「お陰」に「様」をつけて、丁寧にした言葉である。古くから「陰」は神仏などの偉大なものの陰で、その庇護(ひご)を受‌​ける意味として使われている。これは、「御影(みかげ)」が「神霊」や「みたま」「死んだ人の姿や肖像」を意味することにも通じる。接頭語に「お」がついて、「おかげ」とな‌​ったのは室町時代末頃からで、悪い影響をこうむった時にも「おかげさま」が使われるようになったのは江戸時代からである。 –  Dono Feb 12 '13 at 6:39
    
thanks again. so originally it implied being in the shadow of (gods/spirits - greater ones)? –  yadokari Feb 12 '13 at 6:51
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@yadokari Here's Dono's quote translated: 'O-kage-sama', being the combination of 'o-kage' and 'sama', refers to the people you receive profit and favours from and is a term used for politeness. From ancient times, 'kage' was used in reference to the protection received as a result of remaining in the shadow of gods and influential people. This meaning even conveyed the sense of [spirits of every sort]. When the 'o' prefix was added in during the late Muromachi period and 'okagesama' came into use during the Edo period to describe receiving misfortune as well. –  user4060 Oct 16 '13 at 14:29

2 Answers 2

(Marked this as "community wiki" since it's not my answer, just a consolodation of long neglected information in the comments that should be an answer.)

This site states:

おかげさまは、他人から受ける利益や恩恵を意味する「お陰」に「様」をつけて、丁寧にした言葉である。古くから「陰」は神仏などの偉大なものの陰で、その庇護(ひご)を受‌​ける意味として使われている。これは、「御影(みかげ)」が「神霊」や「みたま」「死んだ人の姿や肖像」を意味することにも通じる。接頭語に「お」がついて、「おかげ」とな‌​ったのは室町時代末頃からで、悪い影響をこうむった時にも「おかげさま」が使われるようになったのは江戸時代からである

Revised translation. Please correct as necessary:

"Okagesama" is a polite expression that takes the term "お陰{かげ}," which in this case refers to grace or favors received from others, and adds "さま." The term 陰 has traditionally referred to gods or goddesses or other greater beings lending their protection. The term 御影{みかげ} can also be used to refer to spirits more generally or the appearance of the deceased. The "o" prefix has been added and used since the late Muromachi period, and the expression has been used in negative situations since the Edo period.

And for your last question, yes, 陰{いん} is the kanji in 陰陽{いんよう}, which is the Japanese compound for what we refer to in English as "yin and yang".

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お陰

I asked my Japanese friend this one a long time ago. It is just as loose as you imagine - It's your friend who 'got your back'. The backup 'hiding in the dark'. The 'secret weapon' to help you out.

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